Saturday, March 1, 2014

Pilot Review: Mind Games

Mind Games (ABC)
Premiered February 25 at 10pm

When I first saw a preview for this show a month or two ago, I didn’t think it would have all that much to offer. Christian Slater is an actor who has tried television before without much success. “Breaking In,” in which he had a similarly smug part that cast him as a puppetmasetr, lasted longer than most expected it but still proved quite unmemorable. “My Own Worst Enemy” had him handling two personalities, which wasn’t all that compelling. And the title of “The Forgotten” speaks for itself. Steve Zahn, on the other hand, found himself a suitable role as the fast-talking radio DJ Davis McAlary on HBO’s “Treme,” which wrapped its fourth and final season two months ago. The combination of these two doesn’t exactly sound promising, and it certainly isn’t. Zahn is completely off the rails, yelling and shouting about nonsense, while Slater’s nonchalant demeanor offers nothing productive. “Franklin and Bash” was wild and untethered enough, and this show takes the premise of ridiculousness infinitely further. I was pleased to Megalyn Echikunwoke as actress Megan, but disappointed to see that this feels a lot like her lamentable part on “Made in Jersey” rather than her strong turn on “House on Lies.” The ideas on this show are somewhat enticing, like filming a thank you for something that wasn’t actually granted in order to make it happen, but it all feels like a much less cool version of “Inception” without the sci-fi element to it. I can’t find much appealing about this show, which is more irritating than anything else.

How will it work as a series? The end-of-episode return of Beth threatens to undo the (relative) stability that Zahn’s Clark has been able to accomplish, but mainly because Ross actually hired her to pretend to be in love with him so that he would get fired. It’s a radical twist that just adds more unnecessary complication to an already wild and excessively muddled story. I can’t imagine it will be coherent every week.
How long will it last? Ratings for the pilot weren’t strong, but going up against “Person of Interest” and “Chicago Fire” is hardly an easy feat. ABC has been doing an okay job promoting it, but I don’t think they’re honestly invested in it as anything more than a very short-lived midseason replacement.

Pilot grade: D-

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